Got back from New Orleans a few weeks ago. Ate lots of delicious food at Jazz Fest– the highlight was the sweet potato turnover as always. I went to my old ‘hood, Magazine Street, and was Chef John Besh at La Divina Gelateria. Then I ate some hand made chocolates from their rival, Sucre. Also popped into a banh mi shop in New Orleans East. I’ll be back in less than a month to get married!
Entries Tagged as 'Travel'
We left town for a few days between Christmas and New Years. We looped through Midland to White Sands, New Mexico, then on to the small towns of Marfa and Alpine.
A real live tumbleweed in Midland!
Frolicking in the beautiful White Sands of New Mexico.
A cat friend in Marfa.
Taking in the sites in Alpine, Texas, sort of near Big Bend.
A mesa on the way back to Austin! I guess there’s a reason I learned about them in elementary school geography class.
It was a relaxing way to end a busy year. I want to keep up the momentum in 2013!
Right now I’m a sloth. I’ve felt languid ever since the days started shortening. Typical me, I had grandiose catch-up plans for Thanksgiving break, but that never works. It turns out, I went back to Rhode Island to visit family and friends and lay on my parents’ couch and watch cable.
The days were even shorter in New England (I swear the sun started lowering at 3:30!). But a striking blue light covered everything at that magical hour. It made the cold and darkness worth it.
Now I’m back in Austin where it’s 80 degrees in December. Although I’m reluctant to admit the bright light makes me a bit peppier, I still long for chilly temperatures. The leaves are always oranger on the other side.
“Wait, where are the mushrooms?” I glanced down at the bag of cherries in my hand as the double doors smashed together and the train pulled away. Dread. Disappointment. That crackly paper bag of luminous lobster mushrooms and farmstead goat cheese was now destined for an all-day ride around Portland. I left them behind while dreaming of the hutilacoche, wild mushroom, and truffle oil huarache I recently ate at La Condesa. But it was more the distracting thoughts about this year’s IFBC. As Morrissey would say, “Typical me.” Crankier than ever, I headed back to the conference to face the “blogging as industry” onslaught.
I had felt triumphant when I saw that mushroom stand. Others might call it smug. Thirty minutes earlier, I had been sitting in a drab conference room listening to presentations about pushing magic buttons to get 25,000 or 100,000 unique views per month. Meanwhile, there was a whole world of tastes, smells, and blogging inspiration to discover in the city buzzing around us. A twinge in my gut cried out “run away!” (this happens often), so I fled to the bustling Portland Farmers’ Market full of berries, oysters, cheese makers, and foragers. Earlier I had indulged in a sublime pâté at Olympic Provisions– that sweet pork butter melted on my tongue upon contact, swirling with barnyard and mustard. At Pok Pok Noi, I reveled in the juxtaposition of cool papaya salad against a fiery sauce of bird’s eye chilis, palm sugar, and pungent fish sauce. The spiciness of the salty black land crab topping exceeded that of the actual salad. I had no choice but to extinguish the fire with a cold pint of local lager. And the coffee at Coava Roastery? Don’t even get me started. It was the most emotional coffee experience ever– brewed in a glass beaker-esque French press, releasing aromas of raspberry and chocolate. Isn’t that the kind of stuff that really inspires bloggers? Or is it really SEO, brands, and PR stuff?
So I’m naïve. I didn’t know people created blogs just to make money. Can they really eat their sidebar ads alone? And I wasn’t ready for the brand shilling. The Pork Board presentation made me feel particularly dirty, but I still lugged home one of their cute pig cutting boards, so what does that say about me? I’m not against working with brands per se, but I haven’t fully digested my feelings. On another note, I had no idea so many bloggers want a cooking show. I thought everyone who started a blog was like me– content to hide behind a computer screen.
Conferences are tough for an introvert like me. People make small talk, size you up quickly, determine if you’re worth their time. It’s not personal or aimed at anyone in particular– I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well. It’s just an observation about how conferences (and the world, for that matter) work, and I wish it weren’t that way. Yet I can’t wait to go through my pile of business cards and say “Hi” to all the lovely people I met.
So what happened after I returned to the conference mushroomless? The Saturday afternoon sessions were much more my speed. Diane Morgan’s presentation demystified the cookbook writing process, empowering me to pursue that goal maybe ten years down the road or so. I also enjoyed Kathleen Flinn’s writing pep talk, inspiring me to shake things up on this often formulaic blog. I was in high spirits by the end of the night and probably should have stopped partying and gone to bed earlier. But that’s just me being me.
These words came in a rush. Rarely does that happen. Clearly IFBC inspired me to keep blogging, but for now I’ll use it more for writing practice and taking Tastespotting-worthy photos. Other than that, let the chips fall where they may. And I felt better after realizing that at least I didn’t lose the truffle oil. Besides, I could buy wild mushrooms in Austin shipped in from Oregon. Isn’t that what our giant Whole Foods is for anyways?
Huitlacoche Huaraches with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Oil
- 1 cup powdered masa harina for tortillas (such as Maseca brand)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 pound mixed wild mushrooms, chopped (like chanterelles, hen of the woods, or lobster mushrooms)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup huitlacoche
- 1/4 cup Cotija cheese
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema
- 2 tablespoons fresh epazote, coarsely chopped
- truffle oil for drizzling
1. In a medium bowl, mix together masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup hot water. Mix together with your hands until a uniform dough forms. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook until well browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.
3. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel. Pour in the vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat. Separate the huarache dough into three balls. Form each ball into an oblong oval about 1/2 inch thick and immediately place in the hot pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until dark brown spots appear. Remove the huaraches to a plate.
4. Spread each huarache with a tablespoon or so of huitlacoche and then top with the mushrooms. Drizzle with a little truffle oil, and then add the Cotija cheese and crema. Garnish with the chopped epazote and serve.
Leave it up to the French to transform something as coarse as pig trotters into an inspiration. I’ve mentioned in passing the superb meal we enjoyed at Les Cocottes de Christian Constant. When I saw pommes de terres farcies au pied de porc (potatoes stuffed with pig feet) on the menu, I had to try it. I envisioned a hoof sticking out of a potato or maybe something like April Bloomfield’s famous pig foot dish. But my stomach wasn’t at 100% after staying out late drinking too much champagne at our friends’ wedding. I’d take a few bites, and then push it off to the side and let Dustin finish the rest.
The dish that arrived wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It appeared to be baked or boiled potatoes, stuffed with shredded pork. It was crusty and almost caramelized on the surface. The crisp meat and soft potatoes created a true harmony of textures complemented by the flavor of savory pork, sweet onions, and some underlying acidity. My mild hangover melted away— I wanted to devour all of it.
The wheels in my head started spinning. I’m the type of girl who snatches up pig trotters when she spots them at the farmers’ market. They had been languishing in the freezer amidst vague plans to make headcheese (foot cheese, really). Since I’m not a huge headcheese fan, I never got around to it. I would make these potatoes instead!
I found the recipe and a video when I returned, but they were in French. I had been naïve to think the potatoes were boiled; they were indeed fried in about six inches of duck fat. See for yourself in the video below where they whip out a four pound brick of duck fat and toss it in the skillet like it’s nothing. No wonder those potatoes tasted so good.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/19391583 w=500&h=281]
I busted out the trusty old French skillz and Google Translate to decipher the recipe. It had some major gaps in the process. For instance, M. Constant expected that I already knew how to braise trotters. Also, a brick of duck fat is expensive here in the U.S., so I used a mixture of duck fat, lard, and butter. I turned the potatoes instead of completely submerging them. In the end, transforming those trotters into this exquisite dish made me feel like a true French peasant slaving away over meager ingredients to get dinner on the table for my farmer husband and scruffy kids.
Potatoes Stuffed with Pig Trotters adapted from the dish by Christian Constant
- 2 pig trotters
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- a few thin slices of onions
- 2 tablespoons diced cornichons
- 1/4 cups of capers, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 10 sprigs of parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 12 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups of pure duck fat, or a mix of duck fat, lard, or butter
- butter for baking
1. Place the trotters in a Dutch oven with a few generous pinches of salt, the peppercorns, bay leaves, and onion slices. Slowly cook them in an oven heated to 250 degrees for about 6 hours, or until the meat is pulling away from the bone.
2. When the trotters are cool enough to handle, slice them in half. Remove the meat from the bones, including the gelatinous cartilage. There will be lots and lots of bones, and you’ll be left with about two cups of meat.
3. Finely chop the meat into tiny pieces. Remove any bones you find in the process.
4. Place the meat, parsley, diced onions, capers, cornichons, and mustard in a large bowl. Mix to distribute evenly.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the potatoes to form a cradle for the pork mixture.
5. Thinly slice the bottom of the potatoes to create a flat surface.
6. Melt the fat in a skillet. Cook the potatoes on medium-low heat in the fat for about 10 to 15 minutes per side. You might need to do this in batches. Be extremely careful when flipping the potatoes because sometimes they stick. PLEASE DON’T BURN YOURSELF WITH MOLTEN ANIMAL FATS!
7. CAREFULLY remove the potatoes to a plate lined with paper towels. When the skillet has cooled, pour the fat into a container and reserve for another use.
8. Arrange the potatoes in a skillet or rimmed baking dish. Fill each one with the pork mixture. Dot the tops of each potato with butter.
9. bake for 45 minutes, or until the pork is browned on top and heated through. When ready to eat, carefully remove them from pan because they might stick. Serve while still warm.